The ACT Government is preparing to procure a contractor to fix the Gungahlin Pool and have it opened by the end of the year, Sports and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry confirmed.
Minister Berry said the Government had entered negotiations with the original builder once problems were identified in June 2020 and have now reached an agreement that will see them pay $400,000.
“We can now say that we have reached a point where we know what repairs are required, and we can get to work procuring the contract for a builder and start work on those repairs as soon as possible,” Ms Berry told Committee Hearings this afternoon (1 March).
The ACT Government has already begun trying to engage a new contractor, and the tender process is expected to be complete in a number of weeks.
The government said it would not pre-empt the total cost of repairs before going through the tender process.
All the tiles, levelling screeds and coatings of the pool will have to be removed, and the repairs will then include the installation of a new “pool tiling system”, which includes waterproofing membrane and grout repairs.
The head of Major Projects Canberra, Duncan Edghill, said the government agreed to the settlement on the advice of the Government Solicitor so that the pool could be opened in a shorter timeframe.
“The alternative of going through protracted litigation … is not particularly palatable in terms of how long that would leave the pool [closed],” he said.
The answer left Andrew Braddock, the Greens MLA for the Gungahlin-based electorate of Yerrabi, to speculate whether “construction companies have us over a barrel” due to the Government needing to open facilities promptly and being unable to afford protracted litigation.
The assertion was rejected by Mr Edghill, who said the pool was a “unique sort of asset”.
The contractor has not built any other swimming pools in the ACT, Mr Edghill said.
Mr Edghill took on notice whether any other investigations into other construction projects by the builder would occur.
The cause of the tiles falling off the pool is still unclear, and experts looked into a raft of reasons, but none could identify a particular reason, Ms Berry said.
“It was a more complicated process than we would have liked. I understand the frustration but there is nothing to hide,” she said.
“There is no good picture to draw on this one, the public service has done their best to negotiate with the builder.”
Liberal MLA for Yerrabi Leanne Castley said the government had bungled the handling of the situation from the start.
“It is clear from Minister Berry’s remarks today we are no closer to finding out the truth about how much it will cost to fix the government’s mess,” she said.
“Not only are there serious concerns about the procurement process to build the pool, but the government’s mismanagement of the process at every step will slog Canberrans with a huge bill for its incompetence.”
According to Ms Berry, Gungahlin residents are likely to receive compensation for the pool’s protracted closure, including the possibility of membership reimbursements or free memberships.